Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin (centre) and the Supreme Court of Canada

BC VIEWS: Bowing to the power of judges

From 'medical' marijuana to 'assisted' dying, courts have free hand to tell the Justin Trudeau government what to do

One of the enduring legacies of Pierre Trudeau’s time as prime minister is the legal supremacy of the individual, as articulated in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

We are seeing this played out with greater force than ever today, by an activist high court that swatted aside Stephen Harper’s attempts to restrain it, and now orders a meek, politically correct Justin Trudeau government to do its bidding.

The Federal Court decreed last week that people have the right to grow their own “medical” marijuana. This ruling is unlikely to be appealed, given that Trudeau the Younger is committed to legalizing marijuana for everyone.

There are conditions that show measurable relief from marijuana products, such as glaucoma or the nausea and loss of appetite associated with cancer treatments. But much of the so-called medical marijuana industry is based on unsubstantiated claims about an inconsistent herbal remedy that hasn’t been studied much because it’s been illegal.

The Federal Court case involves four people from B.C., which boasts more than half of the contested medical marijuana growing licences issued across the country.

One of the petitioners suffers from a vaguely defined condition known as “chronic fatigue syndrome,” which led to a disability pension from a federal civil service job at age 45.

The judge cited no research to support the claim that sitting around smoking dope relieves this condition. Indeed it defies common sense that a set of symptoms with no identified cause, which might be confused with what we used to call laziness, would be alleviated by chronic consumption of a drug that promotes eating chips and watching TV.

But we peasants aren’t supposed to question our monarchs, especially those in ermine-trimmed red robes at the Supreme Court of Canada.

That court has decreed that our charter, which in Section 7 protects the “right to life, liberty and security of the person,” includes a right to have a doctor’s help to commit suicide. Euthanasia has been re-branded as “assisted dying” by all the most “progressive” countries, and Canada has been given a firm deadline to join the club.

(Meanwhile, the term “right to life” is all but banned from university campuses, to minimize the risk of a crude literal interpretation that it means, you know, a right to life.)

A Liberal-dominated committee of MPs and senators has recommended full-throttle implementation, not restricted to terminal illness and including mental conditions such as depression and dementia. The majority suggested even “mature minors” should have this new right.

The politicians support allowing doctors to opt out of cases they won’t condone, as long as they provide a referral to another doctor.

In Belgium, one of the pioneers of this brave new world, most of the growing number of euthanasia patients have had cancer. But as The New Yorker magazine reported in a ground-breaking article last summer, others have been euthanized because of autism, anorexia, partial paralysis, blindness with deafness, manic-depression and yes, chronic fatigue syndrome.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake expressed the hope that Canada ends up with a consistent policy on doctor-assisted suicide, rather than a provincial patchwork.

The closest Lake came to politically incorrect criticism was to caution that “deep discussion” is needed around the court’s notion of a “competent minor,” someone not yet entrusted with the vote or access to a liquor store.

Three dissenting Conservative MPs went so far as to say the recommendations don’t adequately protect seniors who might be coerced into checking out and passing on their estates. How old-fashioned.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: Twitter: @tomfletcherbc


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